Should a site "significant to the life of Cesar Chavez and the farm labor movement in the western United States" be added to the National Park System? The NPS is now seeking your comments, and public meetings on the possibility are being held in six locations in coming days.
The meetings and request for written comments are part of a Congressionally-directed "special resource study" of potential sites associated with the farm labor leader and movement in the West.
In case your history is a bit rusty, a summary of the study notes, "Cesar Chavez is recognized as the most important U.S. Latino leader of the twentieth century. During the 1960s, Chavez led a movement of thousands of farmworker families and their supporters as they created the nation's first permanent agricultural labor union."
Special resource studies don't always result in new sites being added to the NPS, and a variety of options are being considered. They include:
• ongoing management by the current public or private owners;
• technical assistance to property owners who wish to recognize the work of Cesar Chavez and the farmworker movement on land they own (for example, assistance in preservation techniques, public information, education, or other services);
• listing of historic sites on the National Register of Historic Places;
• educational or community service programs;
• NPS management of one or more sites, for example as a national historical park;
• NPS coordination of a historic trail or tour route.
What locations might be included in such a site?
The NPS has developed a preliminary list of significant sites, "including the Forty Acres and Filipino Community Hall properties in Delano, CA; Nuestra Senora Reina de la Paz in Keene, CA; the Santa Rita Center in Phoenix, AZ; and the 1966 march route from Delano to Sacramento. Additional significant sites can be found throughout California and Arizona in major cities and agricultural communities."
Between Monday, May 9 and Tuesday, May 24, public meetings are being held in six locations in California and Arizona. You'll find a list of meeting sites, dates and times at this link.
If you'd like to weigh in on the discussion, you don't have to attend one of these meetings; you'll find contact information for comments by U. S. Mail or e-mail at this site, or you can submit comments on-line.
You'll find some basic information to help you make an informed comment in a newsletter about the project. The deadline for all comments for this phase of the study is May 27, 2011.
You'll have a second chance to weigh in on this idea later this year. A draft study report is expected to be published for public review and comment in the fall of 2011, and a final report will then be transmitted to Congress by the end this year.
The purpose of the current study is to evaluate the areas in question "to determine whether they are eligible to be designated as a unit of the national park system, and to consider a range of options for preservation and public visitation." The debate over the financial feasibility of a possible new NPS site will come later during Congressional hearings, if the study recommends that such a site be established.
That said, it will be interesting to see if the current fiscal woes at all levels of government play into the discussion for possible NPS involvement in this, and other, potential new park areas. Is this an idea whose time has come, irrespective of budget constraints? Time will tell.